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Gig Review: Ultimate Eagles @ St James Theatre, Wellington - 16/06/2017

19 Jun 2017 // A review by Reef Reid
'Ultimate Eagles' are an 'Eagles' tribute band currently on their History World Tour spanning seven countries. I had an opportunity to catch them half way through their current tour in Wellington at the St James Theatre to a well patronised venue. This was their first visit to New Zealand in the seven years they have been together. They had already played Christchurch and were scheduled to play Auckland before taking a break over a few months to complete the rest of the tour back in the UK.

The (actual) Eagles band is renowned for their superb vocal ability and legendary guitar playing. Any tribute band touring the world with a show is presumed to be very good and so my expectations were immediately high. The band consists of a number of musicians, many of whom have decades of experience with multiple artists and shows, including a finalist for "UK Drummer of the Year". The show is split into two sets, each of which runs for approximately 60-70 minutes with a 20 minute break in between.

Bang on 8:00pm the house lights go out and the back stage wall is illuminated with graphics as the band appears on stage and kicks off the night with Long Run. The audience is naturally (and vocally) pleased, and like me they get their first taste of this band. By the completion of Witchy Woman, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Seven Bridges Roadand Tequila Sunrisethe vocal capability of this band was well understood, in particular Michael Lawrence and Danny Vaughn.

The lead vocals and harmonies at this point in the show were quite amazing. My expectations by this point were easily met. In particular, the vocal harmonies during Seven Bridges Road gave me chills momentarily and the temperature in the theatre was comfortably in the mid twenties! At various times throughout the show Michael, Danny and Chris take up seat at the keyboards showing some of their instrument versatility. I understand Michael also plays the flute, although not on this occasion.

For Best of my Love, Rhys Morgan comes down from his drum platform (complete with transparent drum shields to prevent acoustic disturbance of the vocals), picks up a guitar and joins the rest of the band lined up along the front of the stage completing a rather nice array of guitars. I counted a total of 2 basses and 19 guitars lined up on stage. Immediately following this slow tempo mellow number the crowd is alerted by the stark contrasting punchy intro to Heartache Tonight which was a great way to get everybody pumping before calming things down again with Lyin' Eyes. 

Boys of Summer was also performed and it was good to see this track included that was not released by the Eagles, but rather by Don Henley in 1984, four years after the Eagles initial split. This song was also performed by the Eagles themselves on tour in recent years. Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of Get Over It being the first song The Eagles wrote when they reunited in 1994 and showing that the set list was to include more than just "typical" older tracks.

Take it to the Limit completes the first set with a lead vocal performance and harmonies that would make Randy Meisner proud. Michael Lawrence can certainly hit those high notes! The band takes a short break and returns to the stage dressed much less formally in jeans and tees and appear more comfortable as the show progresses.

The second set kicks off with One of These Nights and the amazing harmonies continue to impress me. I was also photographing the show and therefore lighting was important to me. The show's graphics, lighting and haze combined as a great backdrop for making some good images. Check out the gallery here. From the very start some patrons were in the aisle dancing, but by this time of the show, many of the audience, particularly on the upper level are also "cutting shapes" in an area of the theatre claimed as their dance floor. I also witnessed some venue staff doing a very poor job of remaining still. 

The hits keep rolling with New Kid in Town and it's probably apt to point out a change in the line-up. Matthew (Matt) Fry was filling in for Ultimate Eagles bass player Chris Childs. Matt filled the spot very well and not surprisingly, as like his fellow band members he has a stack of experience (over 10 years) as a professional muso, composer and teacher of song writing. Joe Walsh fans were treated to a rendition of Pretty Maids All in a Row which lead nicely into a quick story about Joe's warm up routine that was incorporated into the rock anthem Life in the Fast Lane featuring Chris Wright and Andy Jones belting out the hot lick and iconic lead breaks on guitar, much to the satisfaction of all.

Having heard songs from Don Henley and Joe Walsh's solo careers it seemed only right to hear one from Glenn Frey's solo career also and none was more fitting than The Heat is On. As a guitarist I couldn't help but notice the heritage cherry Gibson double neck guitar sitting on stage all night and when I saw Chris bend down to pick it up, it was obvious which track was next! Something that Danny himself pointed out to the crowd and with that, began the much anticipated Hotel California where Chris and Andy once again treated us with a verbatim Eagles performance during the lead breaks which brought the second set to conclusion with the band acknowledging the audience on exit of the stage.

But this was not the end with the band returning for an encore that included Rocky Mountain Way, Take it Easy and Desperado which was a surprising last song, but actually a nice way to peacefully end the show. As the band left the stage they invited patrons to meet them out front for greetings and some informal chat. I headed out myself with my cameras and they were happily obliging the audience with selfies which was a great touch. Good on them! I got a shot of them at this time also.

Ultimate Eagles are obviously not 'The Eagles', but they do a fantastic job of delivering a complete show featuring the music of the Eagles in the exact style while also inserting their own artistic flair over a generous duration of time. Any Eagles fan would be at home at one of their shows. I've seen a number of tribute bands this year alone and Ultimate Eagles is up there among the top. 'Ultimate Eagles' is quite a bold name for a tribute/cover band but by the end of the show I was no longer concerned about it. I'll be there for sure when they return to New Zealand in the future.

The set list will please most if not all Eagles fans, myself included. Sadly though one of my favourites (I can't tell you why) did not make it on the list for this tour, but as Danny said earlier in the show, it was difficult to choose a set list from such a vast back catalogue. I think they did well, especially incorporating the tracks that the Eagles members released as solo artists. The order of the songs was also a winning formula.

Act I

1. Long Run
2. Witchy Woman
3. Peaceful Easy Feeling
4. Seven Bridges Road
5. Tequila Sunrise
6. Best of My Love
7. Heartache Tonight
8. Lyin’ Eyes
9. Boys of Summer
10. Get Over It
11. Take it to The Limit

Act II

12. One of These Nights
13. How Long
14. Wasted Time
15. New Kid in Town
16. Pretty Maids
17. Life in The Fast Lane
18. The Heat Is On
19. Hotel California


20. Rocky Mountain Way
21. Take it Easy
22. Desperado

Ultimate Eagles who performed live were

- Rhys Morgan - Vocals and Drums
- Michael Lawrence - Vocals, Guitar and Piano
- Danny Vaughn - Vocals, Guitar, Piano and Harmonica
- Chris Wright - Vocals, Guitar, Slide Guitar and Piano
- Matt Fry- Vocals and Bass Guitar
- Andy Jones - Vocals and Guitar 


Other Reviews By Reef Reid

Gig Review: Celine Dion @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 11/08/2018
12 Aug 2018 // by Reef Reid
After a long spell of 22 years, five-time Grammy award winner Celine Dion hit the stage at Auckland's Spark Arena last night in the first of three shows she will perform in Auckland over the coming four days. I headed along to check out the voice behind the name who is regarded by some as "pop music's most influential voice" among female pop stars.
Gig Review: Ardijah @ The Oxford Hotel, Levin - 22/10/2017
03 Nov 2017 // by Reef Reid
Ardijah are an iconic New Zealand band from Auckland who in the 1980's were popular in the club/pub scene. Their debut single Give Me Your Numba was released in 1986 and since then a string of hits followed.
Gig Review: Merrin @ Valhalla, Wellington - 23/09/2017
07 Oct 2017 // by Reef Reid
Merrin recently released their new album 1 and on Saturday 23rd September I headed along to the album release party at Valhalla in Wellington to review and photograph the show. The two support acts for the night were Darkness Within and Strikemaster.
Gig Review: The Pink Floyd Experience @ St James Theatre, Wellington - 05/05/2017
17 May 2017 // by Reef Reid
I had the pleasure and privilege of joining "The Pink Floyd Experience" (referred to going forward as PFE) over both nights on the Wellington leg of their New Zealand and Australia tour to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Pink Floyd's Animals album (23rd Jan 1977).
Gig Review: The Doobie Brothers @ TSB Arena, Wellington - 20/04/2017
21 Apr 2017 // by Reef Reid
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